- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Guests had a special reason to attend the State Departments reception for donors to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms this year, although it had little to do with their opportunity for a privileged peek at recently acquired furniture, paintings and objets de vertu.
Curator Gail Serfaty effectively summed up the situation in her welcoming remarks: "We know youre not here to see the treasures of the State Department, but to see a treasure of a secretary of state."
Colin Powell certainly didnt disappoint, either. The well-heeled crowd was pleased to hear that Americas top diplomat and the military strategist of Desert Storm shares their passion for the rooms priceless collection of 18th- and early 19th-century antiques.
"Im forever showing up unexpectedly, wondering why the doors are locked," he said during a brief lull in the eating and drinking in the Benjamin Franklin State Dining Room Thursday night. The rooms, he added, were the perfect place to take official visitors, especially when discussion starts to drag.
"Whenever I sense a lull in the conversation coming, I say, 'Wouldnt you like to see the Diplomatic Reception Rooms? and then the meeting is over."
Mr. Powell pointed out that the lavishly decorated suite on the departments top floor also comes in handy when discussions arent going so well.
Recently, he reported, one of the most liberal members of Congress came to visit, and the meeting got rather heated. "She had many unpleasant things to say . Finally I said, 'Lets go up to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms."
They apparently worked their magic. Conversation cooled, and the congresswoman hardly could have failed to be impressed especially, as Mr. Powell pointed out, because she made sure to mention she had "never been invited under the previous administration."
Donors flew in from all over the country for the lavishly catered affair, which showcased many recently acquired items, including a Truman-era concert grand piano on loan from the White House; a classic ormolu-mounted mahogany lighthouse clock (1822-1830) donated by Betty Evans, the widow of financier Thomas Mellon Evans; and a beautifully embroidered textile of the Great Seal of the United States, made in China circa 1900, given by Hermen and Monica Greenbergs family foundation.
Trustee Bill McSweeny was excited about plans to exhibit 125 items from the collection, including silver, furniture and paintings, in 21 American cities. The tour, which Mrs. Serfaty specified will concentrate on locations "where there are no significant collections of American decorative arts," will begin in 2003 and is expected to bolster fund-raising support for ongoing restoration and acquisitions projects.
The event also attracted a fair number of Bush administration appointees, whom guests were eager to meet. Agriculture Secretary Anne Veneman and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta were sighted, along with a few guests from Capitol Hill, including Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. Other antiques aficionados included Lloyd and Ann Hand, Joan Challinor, Dr. LaSalle and Ruth Leffall, Armida Colt, Phillips Collection Director Jay Gates, Hope Ridings Miller, John Irelan, Wallace and Wilhelmina Holliday, Evelyn Zlotnick, and Denise and Brad Alexander.

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